RGS History 1980's

The 1980's -- A Full Force Drumming...



The Ruffed Grouse Society’s roots are in the mountains. The organization, founded in the small Virginia town of Monterey, in the mountainous country near the West Virginia border, was granted a Virginia charter dated October 24, 1961 as The Ruffed Grouse Society of America.

Sixteen years later, in 1977, the organization found itself at a crossroads. The Society’s leaders, dissatisfied with the pace of progress up until then decided to dramatically revamp the organization. What followed was a revitalization, and the 1980's saw rapid growth and changes as RGS laid out a comprehensive campaign to bring the cause of forest wildlife to the forefront of the conservation movement. Following the reorganization, from 1978 through 1981 the annual growth rate of the Society approached 64 percent. Within that time period, income totaled approximately $720,000, nearly twice the income raised in RGS’ first 17 years. 

THE 1980's

The Society’s work on behalf of forest wildlife receives national recognition in the form of the prestigious American Motors National Group Conservation Award.

American Motors Corporation National Group Conservation Award - 1980

The Society’s activities act as one of the major catalysts for a renewing interest by other entities in ruffed grouse management. The Pennsylvania Game Commission establishes a series of studies, notable among them a project that involves a large habitat-research area in the state’s central region.

In December, Roy D. Chapin succeeds Leigh H. Perkins as Board president. With upcoming 1981 as the Society’s 20th year, Chapin reflects, “We can be proud of our achievements. Financially we have found new sources of support enabling us to dedicate to our cause many times the dollars we had only a few years ago.”

The Society is still at a point where any significant transfusion of funds is noteworthy, as is the largest, single private contribution in its history (through 1980) in the form of a matched pair of Holland & Holland shotguns from Keith Davis of Flint, Michigan. The guns are appraised at $27,500. Following Richardson, Davis served, from 1966 to 1969, as the second president of the organization’s Board of Directors.

RGS 1980 Stamp Print by David Maass

David Maass is selected to paint the second in a series of stamp prints, resulting in another sellout.

A series of habitat management workshops is begun. The first is held in August at Deep Portage Conservation Reserve near Hackensack, Minnesota. The second is held a week later at Dow Corning Corporation in Midland, Michigan. These workshops are designed to aid private landowners and professional resource managers in the development of quality ruffed grouse habitat.

The Society is honored again for its contributions to the wildlife of America. The award from The International Wildlife Foundation is presented to the Society at the annual Wildlife Film Festival in Las Vegas, Nevada.

RGS assists in the formation of the Ruffed Grouse Society of Canada – La Societe Canadienne de la Gelinotte Huppe.

Following the death of Keith Davis in 1981, his hometown of Flint, Michigan, forms the RGS Keith Davis Chapter, the first chapter to be named for a founding member of the Ruffed Grouse Society. His widow later donates his remaining firearms collection to the Society.

Twelve wildlife habitat improvement research projects are now receiving support from the Society. They are located in 10 different states ranging from Maine to Minnesota and from Georgia to Missouri. The Minnesota research began to receive RGS financial support in 1972. The other projects were added to the list as the 1980’s got under way.

The first of a continuing series of special reports to sponsor members, The Ruffed Grouse Society 1981 Annual Report to Sponsors, is published.

The Missouri Cooperative Timber Project begins. The project is scheduled to receive more than $210,000 from the Society over the next 12 years. The Society, Missouri Department of Conservation; Federal Cooperative Wildlife Research Unit; the U.S. Forest Service and the University of Missouri School of Forestry, Fisheries and Wildlife are involved.

The Ruffed Grouse Society’s newly formed Education Committee receives a long list of proposals as it seeks partners for cooperative education projects in key states throughout ruffed grouse range.

The Richard King Mellon Foundation awards the Society a $240,000 grant to test the programs.

In June the Anheuser-Busch Foundation, at the St. Louis RGS Sportsmen’s Banquet, awards the Ruffed Grouse Society $10,000. The donation is given in recognition of the significant performance of the Society in the field of conservation in recent years. The money is to go to help fund the research the Society is supporting in Missouri.

Mark Dilts retires as editor of The Drummer, the precursor to the current magazine. With his retirement, responsibility for the newspaper is transferred to Paul Carson in RGS headquarters in Coraopolis, Pennsylvania, from Northport, Michigan.

The ruffed grouse takes the spotlight in a special symposium in St. Louis, Missouri, Dec. 6, 1983. Entitled Ruffed Grouse Management – State of the Art in the Early 1980s, the symposium is co-sponsored by the Ruffed Grouse Society and the Northcentral Section of The Wildlife Society and is held in conjunction with the 45th Midwest Fish and Wildlife Conference. The symposium is a forum for the introduction of several major papers on ruffed grouse habitat management.

Woodcock habitat research in Michigan's Upper Peninsula begins to receive significant support from the Ruffed Grouse Society. In this first year of formal cooperation in the project, the Society allocates $10,000 for the study under the direction of Dr. William L. Robinson, professor of biology, Northern Michigan University at Marquette.

After assessing the practicality and effectiveness of various educational projects, the Society finds the Coverts Project, created in Vermont and Connecticut, an outstanding value for the investment.

In the summer of 1984, the Winchester “Grouse Gun” begins arriving, a special limited edition Model 101.

The Society publishes Gordon Gullion’s Managing Northern Forests for Wildlife, which is an update of a previous Gullion publication, Improving Your Forested Land for Ruffed Grouse. The Society also publishes Of Grouse and Things; The Best of the Drummer 1975-1984, edited by Mark Dilts.

Bill Goudy, the Society’s longest serving regional director to date begins his duties in the Mid-Atlantic Region in September. (Goudy retired in October 2002.)

RGS receives The Wildlife Society’s Group Achievement Award, which recognizes an organization or group that registers outstanding achievements to benefit wildlife that are consistent with, or assist in advancing, the objectives of The Wildlife Society.

During 1985, five regional directors, the largest number ever for the Society, are at work in the major areas of ruffed grouse range. In addition to developing active local chapters, the regional directors help encourage landowners to incorporate wildlife habitat management into their overall forest plans.

To commemorate its 25th year, the Society with assistance from Beretta presents an RGS 25th Anniversary Shotgun, a limited edition of 100 of Beretta’s 686 O/U with special serial numbers, special engraving and official flying grouse emblem of the Society done in gold.

For the first time annual income tops $1 million.

A significant policy change allows the Society to explore ways to become directly involved in creating and improving habitat for ruffed grouse and American woodcock on public lands.

RGS receives the Pennsylvania Forestry Association Award for outstanding efforts in natural resource conservation.

The Society signs a memorandum of understanding with the U.S. Forest Service. This memorandum formalizes the relationship between the Society and the Federal agency responsible for the management of 191 million acres of public forestlands and enables the Society to provide both technical and financial assistance for habitat development efforts on these lands.

Rough Grouse, a painting by William J. Koelpin, is the cover of the March-April 1987 Drummer newspaper. Jim Gantner, second baseman for the Milwaukee Brewers, is the model for the hapless bird hunter in the painting. Proceeds from the sale of the print, which is the first of the Ruffed Grouse Society Habitat Sponsor Print series, are earmarked for developing ruffed grouse and American woodcock habitat under the new Ruffed Grouse Society Management Area Program (MAP) initiative. The Society is already a partner in the first of these projects, primarily in Wisconsin and Minnesota.

Daniel R. Dessecker, formerly with the Iowa Department of Natural Resources, joins the RGS staff as the Society’s first habitat biologist. One of his most important responsibilities will be to implement and administer the cooperative ruffed grouse habitat agreements gaining popularity in the Western Great Lakes Region.

The Detroit Area Sportsmen’s Banquet is first in the history of RGS to raise $70,000 and the dinner of the Grand Rapids (Minnesota) Chapter is the first regular Sportsmen’s banquet to net more than $200 per person.

The Hunt Foundation of Pittsburgh provides funds that allow the Pennsylvania Grouse Association to proceed with the purchase of a brush cutter to be used on game lands by the Pennsylvania Game Commission.

With ceremonies May 13, government officials and representative of the Ruffed Grouse Society and other conservation interests celebrate the official dedication of the Cape May National Wildlife Refuge, New Jersey. Because Cape May is so important to migratory woodcock, the Society had long worked for the establishment of this Refuge.

In September of 1989, the Ruffed Grouse Society introduces in place of The Drummer newspaper a color magazine called RGS. The magazine appears as a special single issue for 1989. Publication of the magazine generates a positive response and leads to the decision that in 1990 the magazine will take the place of The Drummer.


In the years after the 1977 restructuring that ushered in a new era, RGS fills a unique niche in the conservation world. No other organization dedicates itself to the improvement of forest wildlife habitat, and does so by actively seeking partnerships with those who have primary responsibility for the forests, including both public land managers and private landowners. At the core of the Society’s philosophy is that forests can be managed by science-based methods that benefit both the forests and the wildlife species that live within them.

“For all of us, it was a labor of love,” said Bruce Richardson, RGS’ first president, many years ago. It remains so today.

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Created February 3, 2011
Revised February 21, 2014

Mission Statement

Established in 1961, the Ruffed Grouse Society is North America's foremost conservation organization dedicated to preserving our sporting traditions by creating healthy forest habitat for ruffed grouse, American woodcock and other wildlife. RGS works with landowners and government agencies to develop critical habitat utilizing scientific management practices.

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